In Focus: Student pursues Seven Summits goal

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The Saint’s Andreea Nemes sits down with Geordie Stewart, a St Andrews student currently attempting to climb Mt Everest in his quest to become the youngest Briton to scale the Seven Summits.

Andreea Nemes: Tell me about your climbing project and what inspired you to pursue it?

Geordie Stewart: I was revising for A-level exams when I was 17 and my dad gave me a book by Bear Grylls who at the time was the youngest Briton to climb Everest and I read it and decided that I wanted to climb Everest. So I had a bit of a search on Wikipedia and found out about the Seven Summits. So I thought that the Seven Summits would be a fantastic way not just to explore the world but also to challenge myself in preparation for Everest.

AN: How did you start out?

GS: After I left school I spent seven, eight months working seven days a week and then I raised sufficient funds to go on my first expedition to Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain in South America, in January 2008. I managed to successfully climb that and then had two more expeditions before I started at St Andrews, so I’d raise money and then go on a trip. I went to Kiliminjaro in May and summitted on my 19th birthday and then went to Russia in August to summit Elbrus before starting at St Andrews.

Beyond that, I did my first year here, and then in June, July 2009 I successfully climbed the highest mountain in North America, Mt McKinley. I then decided I wanted to go to Everest the next year so I worked to get sponsorship, which I managed to get a hold of, and then tried to climb Everest last year.

I got 120 metres from the summit, but I was short on time and I had three teammates I had to help who were suffering from altitude sickness. So out of choice I turned around. But having not gotten to the top I decided I wanted to come back so I came up with a new plan, which was to make Everest the final mountain.

So over Christmas in 2010 I summitted Mt Vincent in Antarctica and then in February I was in Indonesia climbing Carstensz Pyramid. And then I’m off to Everest on 2 April for round 2!

AN: How does this work with University?

GS: It’s not ideal, but I’ve had to take two years out. Last year I tried to balance the two, but in terms of training and trying to raise money as well it just wasn’t feasible. For me it’s important to do this now though, as if achieve this I’ll be the youngest Brit to do it. And I’m also stubborn enough that I want to finish what I had set out to do.

AN: How does the sponsorship aspect work?

GS: Well the climbs themselves have huge fees so the sponsorship covers that. But everything else I raise is going towards the RNLI, which is the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. It’s a fantastic charity and one that my family has always supported. Most of the people who work for the RNLI are volunteers and I think that the courage they show is something to be admired and supported.

AN: Had you climbed before this?

GS: Well I took a slightly illogical approach and decided I wanted to climb the Seven Summits and then learn to climb. But I’ve taken all the right steps in preparing and I think I’ve gotten to the right physical and mental states.

AN: Which has been your favourite climb so far?

GS: The last two have certainly been the most memorable. In Antarctica I was lucky enough to see one of the most pristine and unspoiled regions in the world and then in Indonesia I was in the jungle, trudging through the mud and rain. So I think the contrast between the two make them the most memorable.

AN: How are you feeling about Everest now?

GS: There is trepidation definitely, but I also feel very prepared. I’ve taken all the right steps and it’s a big challenge, but having been so close last time I know I can get to the top!

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